The heritage of foxhunting is celebrated with bold horses, enthusiastic hounds and regal riders.
September 14, 2012 – Every year my family hosts the Metamora Hunt on our property before they depart for their morning ride. I bake sweet and savory breakfast treats, we check our stock of Sherry, and we ensure there is easy and safe access to the back trails behind our land.
Last Saturday morning I was making mini blueberry muffins following Martha’s recipe and using Michigan blueberries my son and I picked earlier in the season. I topped them off with a strudel topping before popping them into the oven. I also whipped up some super easy but always a crowd pleaser sausage cheese balls. By prepping my kitchen the night before, I could get everything out of the oven in about an hour to serve warm baked goods by 9 AM.
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Metamora, a small town in Michigan, is known to horse people throughout the state as horse country. Metamora is home to some of the most elegant horse farms, ranging in discipline and breeds from hunter/jumper, dressage, carriage driving, gaited horses and stock horses. As a new landowner, we were soon approached by members of the Hunt too allow access to our land for their scheduled rides. For my family it was an enthusiastic “YES!” followed by “What can we do to help?”
The Metamora Hunt was established in 1928. In the early 1900’s, foxhunting took place near Detroit. But as the surrounding area grew in housing and businesses, the sport relocated into Metamora’s beautiful rolling hills, enriched with wildlife. Today, the Hunt is a symbol of our town and countryside.
Before I go too much father, I want to say that while the Hunt does chase either fox or coyote, they do not hunt for the “kill”. Once their prey goes underground or in their den, they call off the hounds and the chase ends. Back in the day, small terriers went along on the hunt carried in leather satchels that where either tied to the saddles or person. Once their prey had gone to ground, the small tenacious terriers were let loose to drive the fox out of their den, so that it could be shot. In Metamora, the fox is considered a precious participant of the hunt, and is never chased to kill. In fact, as the fox population continues to diminish, the hunt usually ends up chasing coyotes.
Now I don’t buy into the line of thought that the fox actually “enjoys” the chase, or you can see him smile before he goes into hiding. My guess is the fox is running like a bat out of Hades and trying to figure out how to out fox the hounds. But it is the chase that hounds, horses and their riders enjoy most. From the dogs’ standpoint, they are doing exactly what they have been bred to do for centuries. Horse and rider are getting an adrenaline rush as they ride gallantly forward, encountering natural obstacles to scale. From our porch, you can hear the hounds’ enthusiastic cry, the Huntsman’s horn and glimpse the mounted riders in their formal hunt attire through the adjacent cornfield.
Learn More about foxhunting from DiscoverHorses.com
I have visited Metamora Hunt’s kennel and have gathered some nutritional information for their feeding program. What a friendly bunch of dogs! They always look happy, have a large clean yard to exercise and are taken out to work often. The sight of 30 or so foxhounds, weighing approximately 70 lbs each, frolicking in your pasture is a sight to behold! Being a terrier person myself, I love the rough coated hounds. Even when they are let loose for a hunt, they are well behaved and on the job. They gather around the huntsman, anticipating the hunt, noses to the ground and tails wagging. That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced the incorrigible hound trying to sneak a sausage and cheese biscuit from my delivery basket!
Learn More about the Metamora Hunt foxhounds
Foxhunting seems to be an equal opportunity employer for a variety of horse breeds. There are the Thoroughbreds, Appendix Quarter Horses, and Warmbloods as well as the cropping up of some unexpected breeds (at least by me) of Haflingers and ponies. Whatever the breed, I am always impressed by their beauty, intelligence and workman like manner. They load off the trailers early morning, and politely make their way to the gathering point with hounds at their feet. They stand patiently for tack adjustments and wait for their riders to drink their Sherry and eat their breakfast snacks. At the sound of the horn, they trot or gallop off in full control, without any hesitation or high jinx. This is not a sport for the flighty or anxious equine. They must have common sense and courage, all traits that are valued by most equestrians.
The members of the Hunt are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Always polite, complimentary, and grateful for our time, they are delightful to host. You see all ages riding and supporting the hunt. Through rain or snow, they arrive before dawn to get ready for their sport. Both their dress and their horses are meticulously turned out, giving an air of respect and importance to their sport. They are strong riders supporting an athletic and balanced position. They give back to the community by sponsoring a landowners picnic and horse show each year. Everyone looks forward to watching them ride downtown in the Metamora Country Days Parade with their hounds.
The hunt begins their season in early fall and hunts well into the snowy Michigan winters. They experience the deep green foliage of late summer, the spectacular color palette of Autumn and the sparkling wonder land of our early winter snow. They sponsor an area wide land clean up on Earth Day and help clean debris off of the trails during the year. They have a real passion for the preservation of open spaces in the countryside. Equestrian sports like foxhunting and trail riding all play a role in showcasing the importance of conserving our land not only for equestrian activities but also for wildlife, agriculture and everyone’s enjoyment.
Learn More about the land conservation efforts of the Equestrian community
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Dr. Christine Skelly is an extension specialist at Michigan State University where she founded and directs My Horse University, an online horse management education program. Dr. Skelly developed the free online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101, in partnership with Discover Horses.